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Category Archives: Weird Things I Love

Outside

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Have a great weekend!

Dreaming of a Special Place

At the start of every spring I start dreaming of some special little spot in the backyard where I can hide and read. So far it hasn’t happened (especially since there’s still snow on the ground and it’s 11 degrees outside), but when I spotted this little Bohemian trailer on Apartment Therapy over the weekend, I knew I’d found the perfect thing. I even went so far as to see if there were any trailers listed in the ‘free’ section of Craigslist, but nothing so far. Isn’t this place amazing? What a great escape!
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Groundhog Day 2014

I know I’m a week late in sharing, but I made a special cake for my favorite holiday last Sunday. While everyone else was watching the Superbowl, I was watching a real classic.  Unfortunately, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, so six more weeks of winter for us!
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Getting Ready

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There’s more snow in the forecast and I’ve made sure that there are plenty of carbs and wine, two essentials when you’re stuck inside.

Currently In My Living Room

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J’s parents are in the process of selling their house and part of that process involves purging their basement of a bunch of J’s ‘stuff’ (which, let’s be clear – when I am saying ‘stuff’, I’m being polite).  Stuff from his childhood, stuff from art school, stuff that he found in a closet in our old house and has hung onto for years, like that deer hoof gun rack on the right.  Admittedly some of it is my stuff, like the Raggedy Ann doll in the upper right corner of the picture, but most of it is not.  A lot of it isn’t even J’s.  Some of it belonged to somebody’s great something or the other and because of some incomprehensible invisible guilt, we are now the caretakers of even more stuff.  There is stuff on the other side of the room that isn’t even pictured, some of which belonged to our kids when they were little and which is hard to get rid off due to the aforementioned  guilt.  Now all of this stuff has to be sorted and either purged or assimilated into our house.  It looks and feels like we’re moving in all over again and I have actually cried over it a couple of times now.  I work from home and being surrounded by all of this stuff is driving me absolutely nuts.  I’m so busy and there simply isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done, including putting all of this stuff away. There has been a bright side, however.  A very happy discovery.
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My mother-in-law was sitting on a mother load of Corelle dishes in my long-coveted Crazy Daisy (or Spring Blossom Green, depending on who you ask) pattern.  I’ve been wanting a set of it for years to use as my everyday dishes and she didn’t even know it.  They’re just her ‘old’ dishes that she had stuck in a box and left on a shelf years ago, long forgotten.  These beauties have completely brightened what has otherwise been a pretty rotten month.  It just goes to prove that there is always a sliver lining, or at least most of the time.  You might have to dig through 17 layers of stuff to find it, though.

Another Post About Books

Ever since I found a book at the library about living with books and posted about it, I’ve been obsessing about displaying our books in some manner.  I always have some stack of books sitting around in a haphazard fashion but ever since drooling over some of these gorgeous pictures, I can’t get the idea of having books in our home out of my head.
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For the longest time I’ve tried to convince myself that I don’t need them and they are just ‘clutter’ but I love them and think they really bring something positive to my overall well-being. I found another book at the library about living with books from House Beautiful called Decorating with Books.
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Honestly, I like Books Make a Home  more but I did find some captivating images in Decorating with Books that made me realize that I really need to display some books in our home.   Just looking at these images gives me  a serene feeling.  That’s something I would like to manifest in my own surroundings because I really feel that anything that relieves stress is a good thing.  Not to get all Freudian, but I’ve loved the library ever since I was a little kid and going there has always invoked these feelings in me. It would make sense that surrounding myself with books would give me that feeling in my own space.
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Each of these images are of entirely different architectural and decorating styles, yet I love them all. They all give me that same deep contented feeling that I want to replicate. Inspiration struck me over the weekend and I decided to use a closet component that was gathering dust in the basement as a bookshelf next to my nightstand.  It’s not the most beautiful bookshelf but I figured I could live with it for a while to see if living with books is what I really want.  So far, I love walking into our bedroom to be greeted by this cheerful stack.  Not only that, but it gives me a place to display all of my collected Dwell magazines.
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It’s only been a few days but this stack has convinced me that I want to display the rest of our books in the basement TV room.  Right now they are stuck in a shelf  that’s overrun with dvd’s and entertainment equipment.  I want to display them and let them shine in their own right.  That room has been slow going but progress is being made.  I hope to work on it before winter so we have a place to escape in the evening.

Do you live with books?  How do you manage them?

How can it already be time for Halloween?

I swear we just celebrated Halloween.  It seems like only yesterday when I posted about decorating my house and how much I love Halloween.  Now here we are again.  I didn’t get anything new this year.  I used what I already have and changed-up my displays a little.  I wanted to go for something more Edgar Allan Poe-ish this year and I don’t know if I achieved that, or not, but for using only what I already have I’d say it isn’t too bad.
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The picture was found years ago in a trash pile at some random house and the bottles were a Christmas gift last year from my nephew who knows I love Halloween.  Of course I also used my orange owl George.   I love George and he loves me back for rescuing him from Target’s Dollar Spot.  The fluorescent lights in that place were killing him.

When you back-up, it’s a little less Poe-ish but still okay.
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I re-used the Halloween banner I made last year which is holding-up surprisingly well.  I may still shade in the letters.  It’s year two and it may take me another couple of years to decide if I really want to put any more effort into it or not.  Last year I was really into the whole season it but this year has been really busy and I feel like it’s going way too fast.
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So have you noticed the year has flown by too?

A Book about Books

I found a book at the library a couple of weeks ago titled  Books Make a Home – Elegant Ideas for Storing and Displaying Books by Damian Thompson.  I’m going to preface by saying I vow to return this book to the library but I sure don’t want to.  I kind of want to keep it, which means I might have to scout around for a reasonably priced used copy.  I’ve found myself flipping through its pages over and over again.  I love books but I don’t buy a lot of them.  Mostly I borrow them from the library, partly as a cost-saving measure and partly so I don’t have tons and tons of books that I have to store.  This book almost makes me wish that I did have tons and tons of books so I could display them in some fabulous way.  In reality I actually like tidy uncluttered surroundings but my fantasy house has stacks and stacks of  books in some cozy Costwolds cottage fashion, just begging for a nice hot cuppa tea on a blustery day.
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There are so many great ideas and inspiring photos in this book. It’s one of those books that offers an escape for awhile. Plus, I absolutely adore the picture on left wall in the photo below.
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The picture below looks better suited to my actual house, rather than my fantasy house although it’s very nice just the same. I do like the mid-cenutry modern vibe going on there and could easily live with that amount of books on display. There are enough to make an impact but not so many that it’s overwhelming.
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There is definitely a hidden door in the library of my fantasy house.
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The lamp in the picture below is amazing! It’s a desk lamp for giants! Also, that’s wallpaper that looks like shelves of books, made from a photograph of shelves of books with no repeat in the wallpaper.
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I like the books on the open shelves in the background of this Scandinavian-looking home, another one of my design loves.
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The headboard below opens to reveal bookshelves. I would like to have something like this in our bedroom but I’m not even thinking about our bedroom right now. Nope, that room is done.
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I love the look of  a simple stack of books. I often keep a stack of books by my bed, mainly because I’m reading them, but also because I like it that way. They never fail to make me smile.
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Here’s the stack I currently have checked-out from the library. That’s another great thing about borrowing books from the library – you can decorate with them for a few weeks and change them out again.
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So what about you? What are your secret, or not so secret, design loves, even if you don’t embrace them in your reality house? How do you display your books? I have my stack pictured above and a bookshelf in our basement family room full of them. This book has really got me re-thinking some things, though, that’s for sure.

How to Make Dinner in a Cardboard Box

Today we have our first-ever guest post by J (with his tongue firmly planted in cheek).

“J” here… making a guest appearance on SSABK because I managed to construct this wonderfully creative (and thrifty) appliance that no household should be without. It’s a smoker, and yes… it’s made out of a cardboard box. I know what you’re thinking: “That is definitely a dangerous looking fire hazard that no household should have around.” While I can agree on some level with you, I must also point out that I am a man and men love fire, not fear it. We love campfires, bonfires, fireworks, firearms, firewalls and basically anything with fire involved, even if it’s just in the name. Unlike racism or politics that can be passed down through generations by example, the love of fire is a mysterious hidden gene that science has yet to discover. It’s there in all of us, I can assure you. Even though this project appears to be inspired and fueled with the testosterone levels of Charles Bronson, Sylvester Stallone, Chuck Norris, and Clint Eastwood combined, I’ll fully admit I got the idea from an episode of Alton Brown’s “Good Eats”. As much as I love Alton Brown, I’m certain he’s not going to be invited as a keynote speaker at a Ninja conference anytime in the near future.  Then again…
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The whole rig is quite simple in materials and construction. As you can see from the pictures, the basic structure is just a cardboard box lined with aluminum foil stapled on the inside. Four oak dowel rods must be inserted – two for holding a drip pan that protects the heat/smoke element, and the other two for holding the racks to place your food. You don’t have to use oak dowel rods but I figured the extra strength couldn’t hurt and I’m sure MacGyver would approve. I used heavy duty Reynolds Wrap foil too, because I’m hardcore like that. You’ll also need a hot plate, sometimes referred to as an “electric range” in more exotic regions of the globe. Here’s where things get dicey. If you have an older hot plate from days past when men didn’t wear skinny jeans and women knew their place (that was a joke – please don’t leave angry comments), you’re good to go. If you have a newer model like I’ve got, there’s bound to be all sorts of thermal protection “safety features” involved because of all the  law suits that have plagued the kitchen appliance industry. The particular model I’m using appeared to be a higher-end unit that has a cast iron element, which really holds the heat. It’s an Aroma model AHP-303. Anything with 303 in the name is automatically awesome in my book because I’m a child of the Techno era and we all know and love the iconic sound of Roland’s TB-303 Bassline synth. This unit has an Access Virus sticker on it because I took off the Aroma one and replaced it. Sidetracked… Anyway, this one generates enough heat to properly smoke some fish and chicken wings without modification. I eventually ended up taking it apart to bypass the thermal regulation for MORE POWER (because that’s what Tim Allen would do) but that ended up to be not so helpful because the other plastic parts such as the plastic feet and orange light bulb were not designed to withstand full-on 1000v temperatures and started melting. I prefer to have hickory and apple wood flavors in my vittles, not burnt plastic, so I changed it back to factory specifications.
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You’ll also need a small cast iron skillet to place your wood chips on. You don’t need a larger one as shown in the photos and I’ve since swapped out the larger one for a smaller one I had sitting around which actually works more efficiently. If everything is working OK you should probably be replacing your wood chips about every hour or so. You’ll know when they burn down to white ash, or close to it. It helps to have an electric thermometer you can place either on the inside of the smoker to measure ambient temperature, or place inside your thickest cut of meat to make sure it’s killing all the microscopic nasties. I prefer to measure ambient temperature because I’d hate to mangle a beautiful hunk of salmon and I’m obviously too rugged to be killed off by something so small anyways. If you can get the ambient temperature up to a sustained 160 degrees ~ (fahrenheit) you’ll make some killer smoked goodness. It takes about 4-5 hours to properly cook a batch of fish or chicken wings at that temp. If yours is heating up too much you can regulate the temperature by venting the box appropriately. Just keep an eye on it because not all meat is created equal and I’ve mistakenly made some salmon jerky. That’s great if you’re planning a backpacking trip. Not so great for a dinner party. But dinner parties can always segue into a poker game or even better… a bonfire.
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Thanks, J!  Please note that if you’re interested in making one of these smokers there are numerous youtube videos giving detailed instructions.  Just search for ‘cardboard smoker’ and you’ll find lots of information out there.

I’d also like to point out that we’ve since acquired this combination grill and smoker off Craigslist for one-third of it’s current retail price at Home Depot but J is also still smoking away in his cardboard box.0517131432a

A Couple of Things

I’ve had my eye on this Shiitake kitchen towel from Crate&Barrel  for a while now.  It’s so unbelievably cute!
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It’s on sale right now for $3.95 but the shipping is $4.95, which makes it a rather expensive towel, at least in my world.  Unfortunately, the closest Crate&Barrel store is over an hour away, so I can’t just run out and pick one up.  Last weekend my friend and I had the chance to go shopping, though, and I finally snagged one.
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I love it!  That is $4.00 worth of happy hanging right there.  The website says “quantities are limited” so if you want one, better get it soon.  J asked me if he was allowed to use it or if it was just for ‘show’.  I told him he could use it because it’s silly to buy dish towels that can’t be used but secretly I didn’t want him to use it.  I actually want to sleep with it under my pillow and keep it close to me at all times.  However, in an effort to appear normal, I’ve been using it to dry dishes.

Also, our friend JZ gave us this really cool vintage marble chess set.  He loves mid-century, too, and had this sitting in his house.  He decided it would look better in our house and surprised us with it one day.
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It’s really nice and does, in fact, look great in our house.  Thanks, JZ!  You can visit it anytime you want!
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So what about you?  Did you recently procure any little things that make you happy?